A Project report for the Cyclades Green Volunteers program in collaboration with the Cyclades Preservation Fund and the British Embassy from 15 September to 15 October 2021. 

Text: Anna Kalatzi, Anna Voulgari, Olga Karagianni

Photos: Maria Lampriadou, Gerard Kramer, Anna Voulgari

The visions and volunteering for the sustainability of Andros

There are many people involved in working together towards the vision for Andros, with the support of the Andros Research Center, a non-profit organization, and through the volunteering initiatives of Andros Routes and Clean Green Andros. The vision embraces a future for Andros as a sustainable island, a clean, natural and social environment, improving the lives of those who live here permanently and of seasonal visitors.  This grand vision is enabled by the efforts, patience and dedication of the volunteers.

The experience of the last 12 years of the Andros Routes project has taught us a lot. Andros Routes created an excellent hiking infrastructure and established it as a top hiking destination in Europe. Along with preparing for the Clean Green Andros Project, whose mission is to reduce waste and garbage on Andros, this experience has enriched us and brought many collaborations to our door.

The work on Andros Routes is an all year round activity and is many and varied. As a result, the Route Angels were created, volunteers who care about and maintain the routes. Route Angels are active and passionate. Their work is never done as the paths are many, the needs are significant, and new goals are constantly set. At this time, we maintain hundreds of signs and many information boards and make and install gates. https://www.androsroutes.gr/el/portes-sta-monopatia/.

Regular work continues – cleaning vegetation, sign maintenance, training new volunteers, maintenance hiking, support for visitors and journalists, communication and promotion of Andros, and much more.

A new support initiative – “Green Volunteers in the Cyclades.”

We are supporting the Cyclades Green Volunteers’  –  a Cyclades Preservation Fund (CPF) program sponsored by the British Embassy Athens (BEA). This year the program is enabling British and Greek active citizens & youth to engage with local communities concerning environmental challenges in the Cyclades islands. https://cycladespreservationfund.org/grants/cyclades-green-volunteers/.

A few months ago, our organizing team met with our CPF friends. We worked together to identify the needs and the ways of working for both field and remote volunteers. CPF and the British Embassy launched a communication campaign, and eventually, our first volunteer arrived on Andros – Kevin Lee Hunter. Kevin worked for a month for both Andros Routes and Clean Green Andros initiatives. Kevin’s work program required many coordination team meetings to ensure he could support both projects with the support of our local volunteers. Kevin had a work plan for the next few days, updated daily, adapted to the weather conditions, the geographical needs and the pending work for both projects.

At the same time, Loek van de Kreke, a volunteer who had participated in the Andros on Foot Festival in 2019, joined the volunteer team. Loek had wanted to visit to Andros again to support our work. The pandemic had kept him away, but he finally managed to come, arriving at about the same time as Kevin.

But let’s look at all this in detail for our two volunteers, the 25-year-old American archaeologist Kevin and the Dutchman Loek!

Kevin Lee Hunter –  An American of Greek origin 

Kevin has studied archaeology and brought a lot of experience to the project. He worked willingly, he was efficient and a joy to work with. An American with Greek roots as his grandfather originated from Samos.

Kevin worked on both projects (Andros Routes & Clean Green Andros), following a weekly schedule. He followed the program faithfully, and his presence was welcome. Kevin and the team bonded, and on the day he left, we accompanied him to the boat to say goodbye.

Kevin’s Achievements:

 –         For the Andros Routes project

  • Participated actively and steadily in building many gates (in Peter’s house/workshop, installed gates on paths 11, 11a, Arn1, 16 and 3 with the volunteer Route Angels –  Gerard Krammer, Antonis Sassalos, Peter Straatjes, Loek van de Kreke and Costas Ioannidis.
  • Painted many signs along the routes, including paths 15, 15a, 16, 9a, 6, 3, 14. He also worked on paths 3, part 6, part 14, 11a, 11, 15 and Arn1 (Arni circular ) and in a maintenance hike on the Chartes circular route, Cha1.

–         For the project Clean, Green Andros

  • Kevin collected garbage and plastic pellets (nurdles) on beaches and trash from the paths. A good example was clearing the stream bed that runs through Arni (Arn1 Circular). He learned a lot about the Recycling system in Andros. It is not an exaggeration to say that apart from the recycling and municipality employees, Kevin knows every recycling bin on the island!

Kevin, as a mountain runner, made special mention of the signage and well-maintained trails. He also mentioned that he thought that the Andros recycling system works more efficiently than his hometown, Washington DC! (Oh yes, he said it!)

Loek, the  calm Dutchman

Loek arrived on his own and found us! He stayed for 15 days. Using his initiative, he worked on Andros Routes. He also joined a program of daily tasks from the first day, which he willingly and effectively followed. From the first moment, it was obvious that Loek distinguished himself with the ethos and the culture of volunteering.  He helped build the gates in Peter’s house and installed them on path 11a. With our Dutch volunteer Gerard, he reorganised the Andros Routes warehouse and re-inventoried the marking materials and tools. Both on his own and with Gerard, he painted signs along paths 1,  in Apikia on paths 10, 2 and in Dipotamata on path 3 . He also joined the working hikes for paths 6, 3 and part of path 1 and the maintenance hike on Chartes circular Cha1.

Our Route Angels and the Clean, Green Andros team continue to help!  

To support our volunteer friends to work effectively, they were helped by many Route Angels and other project volunteers. In particular, Peter Straatjes offered know-how, effort, and a space that became a workshop. Gerard Kramer worked on the trails and in Peter’s workshop. He worked almost daily with Kevin and Loek. Antonis Sassalos, a new route angel, actively participated in everything. Alexander Vrachnos coordinated and supervised the logistical supply of necessary materials, Ulli Stahlmann provisioned pallets for the gate-making.  Ulli provided the first guidance about sign maintenance during a hike. Ulli, together with Anna Kalatzi and Katerina Pantazi, coordinated and edited the daily program. Anna Voulgari and Katerina Pantazi updated the daily schedule with regular posts on the social media of both projects.

Our first volunteer friends left on Tuesday, 12 October. We would like to believe that they left with the best impressions of Andros and our volunteers and our projects. They told us that they appreciated the organizational efforts behind the project. (We were happy to hear this). Of course, they did not work all the time. They especially enjoyed the famous Andros food (meatballs, fourtalia (omelettes), raki (greek spirits), sweets, salads, dolmades, sausages, cheeses and more) and they had fun with us.

Volunteers and volunteering

Volunteering is not mandatory; it relies on the voluntary participation of the active citizen; it does not ask for material reward.  Volunteering is the joy of offering the satisfaction that we are useful to society as a whole and ourselves, that we do something beyond our daily lives, that we participate together with others in something great.
Congratulations to all who worked together with a cooperative spirit and gave their best!

Warm thanks to:

  • The Cyclades Preservation Fund.

Anni Mitropoulou and Kelly Garyfalli for their inspiration, bringing the Green Volunteers program to the Andros Research Center,  and their excellent support and cooperation.

  • The British Embassy

For their support of the Green Volunteers campaign.

From  Andros

–    Filippo Perraki for the use of the Perraki Hotel for the inaugural meetings

–   Andros Rent a Car, Euro Rent a Car and Escape in Andros, for supporting  car rentals with lower prices

–    Andros Film Club for providing free cinema entrance for Kevin

–    Anthos Gavriou  for sweets donated to Kevin & Loek

–   Vlamis Hardware Store for the bags and materials for beach cleaning

–   Psarros Building Materials for lower prices of metal fixtures for the installation of path gates

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer

And we will contact you.

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